One of the coolest visual effects that, today, occurs across film, TV, photography, and even video games, is the “god ray”. A “god ray” is a light beam, typically a sunbeam, in one of the previous forms of media. This is a fantastic representation of a “god ray”:
If you have an image with a light ray like this, you probably had a lot of fun editing it. When I photographed concerts, the combination of spotlights and smoke or fog machines made incredible rays that I simply loved working photographing – either directly, or to add to my composition. It was one of the easiest things to photograph to add visual interest, and the photos that I take using these rays always seem to receive compliments.
Something about these rays is just overtly intriguing to people, both to photograph and to appreciate in photography.
Recently, I have been playing around with the app Pixaloop quite frequently. It’s a post processing phone app that lets you create cool animations out of still images. I’m really excited to share with you one of my recent discoveries, which is the animation of light rays with Pixaloop.
This process is relatively simple, even for someone completely new to the app, and provides great results. Plus, it’s just a fun process to go through, so let’s jump right to it!
Import your image to Pixaloop and take care of basic adjustments
As always, the first thing to do is get your image in Pixaloop. Depending on your process and what you want the final animation to look like, you might want to do some editing first. The final file format for Pixaloop isn’t going to be something you can edit as easily as a still image file, so if you’re doing a high amount of other-application dependent editing, take care of it before you start the animation process.
This is the image that I have selected for this tutorial:
Now, the first thing to do is open Pixaloop’s gallery and start a new project, by pressing the New Creation button, like so:
The next step is to actually create the animation of the image. First, open the animation tool, which is the first tool in Pixaloop’s toolbar. This is what your animation tool will look like:
Now, using your freeze and unfreeze brushes, you will want to draw on a mask that isolates the light ray. Just create a rough mask of the ray – we will come back and clean it up after we have added the animation, this is just to make it so we can see what the animation is affecting later.
Here is what my freeze mask looks like now:
Because this is a straight path, I can use the geometric pathing tool rather than the regular path tool. The only difference is that the geometric tool will draw from point to point, and not allow curves. If you are working with anything that isn’t perfectly straight, use the regular path tool. I found that instead of just one path, drawing a lot in a line like this worked a lot better:
Differentiating the lengths of these arrows also allowed me to change up the flow of the light in terms of speed and amount of animation. This meant that I could have the light move with more momentum the further down, almost as if it was being poured in and catching speed over time.
Once you create your first path, it will be highlighted orange. To start a completely separate path, simply tap it a second time. This will allow you to start on a new geometric path, without having to incorporate all your paths into the original.
Lastly, I’m going to add some anchor points where I don’t want the wall of the cave to move. You need to add these so that only the center area of the light beam is moving. Because these beams of light are generally circular, the center tends to be the brightest. Use this to your advantage, and have the middle of the beam be the part where most of the motion is visible.
This is what my anchor points looked like:
Finishing touches for your final animation
One final thing, you need to edit the speed this plays at. Using the play/pause button on the bottom right corner of the display panel, check what the current speed of the image is. For light rays, I prefer the look of close to as slow as possible.
The last thing I did here doesn’t have to be done, but I thought it added a little motion to the rest of the image which I left un-animated. I went to the Overlay tool and added in a very light mist animation to the whole shot. I think this looks really good. In retrospect, I could have also added animation to the water both in the form of ripples and animated the reflection of the light ray to match the ray it is a reflection of. This is the overlay and opacity selected:
Either way, I thought this was a fast project that was easy enough to get your toes dipped into the pool of what is possible with Pixaloop. I hope you enjoyed this guide! Here is my final animation: